Does putting people in jail work as a deterrent Are we putting more or less people in prison now

01:00 Thu 20th Sep 2001 |

asks adryley:
A. Prison reform campaigners claim that sending people to prison does not reduce crime. And we're putting more people in prison than ever.

Q. How many more
In England and Wales, the prison population has increased by 25,000 over the last ten years, and is due to rise by another 1,000 within two years.

Q. How many people are in prison now
According to the Home Office, the prison population in England and Wales recently reached 67,383 - that's 128 for every 100,000 people, and the highest in Europe.

In Scotland, there are 6,246 people in prison, or 122 for every 100,000 people.

Q. How does that compare to other countries
The EU average is 88 people in prison for every 100,000 people in the population. Finland is the lowest at 52, followed by Northern Ireland (60), Denmark (61) and Sweden (64).
The world's highest is the US with 702, then Russia (465) and South Africa (385).

Q. Why are so many more people in prison in the UK
According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, it's not because more crime is being committed, but because people are being locked up for longer periods.

Says Frances Crook, director of the Howard League, 'Prisons do not solve the crime problem - in fact, locking someone up tends to make their problems worse. To lock more and more people up is a mad policy because sending people to prison simply creates more crime and more victims.'

Q. What can be done instead
The Howard League is campaigning for proposals which would lead to more community sentences rather than prison sentences. That would cut offending rates.

Q. Wouldn't that put a lot of dangerous people on the streets
Apparently not. The Howard League claims that successive governments have encouraged prison sentences for non-violent offenders. In 1999, however, only 16% of the people sent to prison were convicted of violent or sexual offences.

Q. Where can I find out more
Visit the Howard League's website.

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